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Harsh words, coming as they do at a time when other Labour big beasts have toned down their anti-Corbyn rhetoric (publicly, at least). Also perhaps times to do maximum damage, given that today the voters of Stoke and Copeland go to the polls.
Which raises a few questions. According to the 2016 Labour Party Rule Book it’s forbidden for any member to:
‘Engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC (National Executive Committee) is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party.’
A reasonable observer, whether on the NEC or not, might be tempted to think that Mandelson’s words and their timing might come under that description. Chapter 6 (Disciplinary Rules) is also of interest. According to that:
‘The NEC shall take such disciplinary measures as it deems necessary to ensure that all Party members and officers conform to the constitution, rules and standing orders of the Party.’
Continuing its regulatory theme, Chapter 6 states:
In relation to any alleged breach of the constitution, rules or standing orders of the Party by an individual member or members of the Party, the NEC may, pending the final outcome of any investigation and charges (if any), suspend that individual or individuals from office or representation of the Party.
Yes, your Lordship, I’m looking squarely at you.
Mandelson, given his reputation as being among the shrewdest of political operators, can’t have failed to see the likely impact of his remarks. Nor is he likely to have forgotten to check his diary and not remembered that not one but two important by-elections are being held today.
He must have known the trouble his remarks would cause. He can’t be unaware of their timing being so problematic. Nor can he be unaware that, in flouting Labour’s own rules so spectacularly, he’s issuing a tacit challenge to Jeremy Corbyn to have him disciplined. To let as big a fish as Mandelson off this particular hook would only encourage others in the anti-Corbyn lobby to behave similarly.
Not that this would be the first time Mandelson has had to depart under a cloud. His first departure was over alleged financial improprieties involving a loan and a mortgage. His second, the notorious Hinduja affair, didn’t enhance his reputation for probity, either.
Yet he remains a Labour Peer. He remains a Labour Peer despite rumblings over his links to a company accused of illegal logging. His decision to approve the Digital Economy Act before public consultations were actually finished does rather give the impression that he’s more interested in the appearance of open democracy rather than democracy itself. Recent jibes about yachts and Russian oligarchs might have something to do with his involvement with dubious characters like Oleg Deripaska concerns have arisen about his expenses claims as well.
Small wonder that, for some, Mandelson’s latest attack on his party a leader, a leader elected and then re-elected with an increased majority, might be seen as an attack too far. Any rank-and-file Labour Party member so frequently causing embarrassment and bouncing from one crisis to another could expect to face disciplinary action. If an old-school leftist had attacked Tony Blair during his tenure in this way, at this time, they could probably have expected to be expelled and, ironically, it would be people like Mandelson doing the expelling.
Which begs the question, what will Labour do about Mandelson? Do they have the nerve to make an example of him, to make it clear that Blue Labour is finally dead and buried?
If not, why not..?